Last night, Mark Buehrle entered the history books by throwing the first no-hitter of his career, the first Sox no-no since Wilson Alvarez 16 years earlier. Buehrle has been in the front car of the White Sox roller coaster the past few seasons, pitching like a stud and winning a championship in 2005, then following up in 2006 with a career-worst 12-13 record and 4.99 era. This year started off where last year ended, not even making it out of the 2nd inning in his first start and giving up 3 runs in the first inning of his next start. Following that first inning against of his April 11th start in Oakland, though, he has been untouchable, warranting only 1 hit in the 15 innings since.
I did not have the opportunity to watch the no-no, as I was at work. Listening to the Cubs on WGN, Corey Provus announced in his 5th inning fill-in duties that Buehrle was sitting on a no hitter in the 6th. When Pat Hughes later announced he still had it going in the 8th, I knew to flip over, if only to hear Ed Farmer dance around stating the obvious.
“Mark Buehrle has faced the minimum.”
“Buehrle has only faced 24 batters through 8 innings.”
“The only Rangers base runner tonight was a walk to Sammy Sosa who Buehrle picked off a few pitches later.”
Hopefully this will provide the somewhat lethargic Sox with a shot in the arm. While it is far too early to determine if this is a championship-caliber team, If Buehrle, Garland and Contreras can all start pitching like they are capable of, the Sox will definitely be in the hunt.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the Keystone Cubs are still a laugh riot. I long ago abandoned the attitude of hope and excitement about my team going into the season as possible contenders. Instead of World Series hopes, I now, in my old age, just look forward to spending my afternoons and evenings hearing the crack of the bat and the pop of the (opposing team’s) catcher’s mitt. For those of you smart enough to not be following this team, I will give you a quick recap of what has been learned through 14 games:
–Carlos Zambrano has gone from being crazy good to just plain old crazy.
–Will Ohman remains a better disc jokey than relief pitcher.
–Rich Hill, the youngest and only starter in the top 4 not being grossly overpaid, is pitching lights out.
–Wade Miller still sucks at baseball.
-The outfield is currently in danger of tallying more errors than home runs.
–Jacque Jones still could not throw out a baserunner if he were standing on the pitcher’s mound…and if the baserunner were Christopher Reeve.
-“Defensive shortstop” Cesar Izturis had a 3 error game.
–Kerry Wood & Mark Prior are both hurt and did not start the season. SHOCKING.
–Mark DeRosa leads the team in home runs.
-800 billion dollar man Alfonso Soriano tweaked his hammy during the first Cubs night game, but did not want to go on the DL, which prompted the team to send long reliever Angel Guzman down to AAA Iowa and call up the legendary “next great 5 tool player” Felix Pie to fill in center field where, the very next day, the game went to 14 innings and Lou had to burn up the entire bullpen because they had no long reliever which further prompted Lou to let Cliff Floyd figure out the lineup decisions in the last inning that resulted in Jason Marquis pinch hitting and he would have had to play first base had the game continued but instead the Cubs lost 6-4 because Will Ohman is still bad.
–Ron Santo still makes me want to die.
I am glad baseball is back and I do not believe that the Cubs will have the kind of year they did last year. There are some encouraging points. The afformentioned Rich Hill, who looks like the real deal through his first 3 starts. Ryan Theriot is hitting everything and provides smart and fast base running. Felix Pie has already lapsed the combined outfielding talent of every other outfielder the Cubs have by putting on a clinic on approach angles and also throwing out a would-be go ahead run at the plate in the 14 inning marathon.
Most encouraging is Lou Piniella. He has already shown a willingness to shuffle the lineup and put in the players who give the team, what he thinks, is the best chance for victory…regardless of their age or reputation. He also has been completely honest in his assessment of the team with the media, already having a couple of well-televised little blowups. I still have questions about him as a manager, particularly with regard to his use of pinch hitters and runners innings, leaving his bench and bullpen thin in the later innings, but I am pleased with his candor, honesty and aggressive managing style. It is a welcome change from Dusty Baker.
The Cubs have as good a shot at the playoffs as anyone in the division noone wants to win…how deep they go will depend on how hot the bats get and if Carlos Zambrano gets his head on straight.